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p12 Stateside 29/4/09 08:17 Page 12
Sharon Harris is going crazy. Or is she?
think I must be crazy; I feel it, after reading of our In my own New Jersey district, Republican Frank
public servants’ good life while the rest of us watch LoBiondo voted against the original stimulus bill. He
our wallets. currently co-chairs the House Gaming Caucus with
Excluding a short teaching stint, I have worked in stimulus supporter, Democratic Congresswoman
small business my entire career. During those years, I Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas. They have united to
enjoyed good years and sometimes weathered some eliminate the casino exclusion, but way too late to
storms. That is what businesses do. They prevail in counteract the enormous early damage.
tough times through determination and budgeting. Should we expect more from our representatives? Of
However, after witnessing how Washington operates, I course, but Washington career politicians rarely feel the
obviously missed my calling by not joining the pain. Voter inertia means easy reelection, and once in,
government payroll. name recognition and political clout help fundraising.
As I wrote last month, virtually no one in Congress For example, entering the Senate at 29, Vice
read through President Barack Obama’s $787 billion President Joe Biden served 36 years before becoming
“stimulus package”. The language excludes financial vice-president. Dozens have also held Senate and
aid for the gaming industry, and prohibits stimulus House office for decades.
beneficiaries from meeting at casino properties. Politicians never experience pay cuts, downsizing,
Gaming gets nothing, but a second spending competition or millions of small details impacting
package allocates $410 billion for approximately responsible business executives. My late father
9,000 pet “pork” projects that Washington legislators claimed that sweating out a payroll forces efficient
want for their home districts. Admittedly, some may management and fiscal discipline.
be admirable, but are seemingly useless projects like Happily, New Jersey recently lifted an antiquated
tattoo removal, pig manure odor control and lobster 1981 regulation. Drawing from a greater talent pool,
research worth millions? casino employees residing in Atlantic City may now
Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic run for city government. However, casinos still may
Majority Leader and a key architect of the stimulus, not employ local officials.
has since backpedaled. Writing to the Obama How wonderful for people in the business
I obviously missed
Administration, he requested a revision of “trenches” to possibly benefit city government
“nonsensical regulations”. Its punitive interpretation operation. Just look how experience and amassing a
my calling by not
of the language restricts stimulus funded groups – multi-billion dollar empire helped New York City
joining the
including civic and nonprofit charities – from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As chief executives, state
meeting on casino property. Reid claims it hurts governors typically score well with the public. They
Nevada hotels. Truthfully, almost every casino address budget issues and juggle issues similar to
jurisdiction is hurting. business operations. Thankfully, most top gaming
Maybe if Senator Reid had closely examined the bill, executives have demonstrated responsibility and
he wouldn’t have to grovel to help his own state, let prudence, getting it right more often than not.
alone others. Ironically, the Center for Exhibition We are all paying the price. Attainting credit remains
Industry Research reports that Las Vegas – the focus of a key problem for struggling casinos, meaning a shaky
Obama’s comments about frivolous tax-deductible future for many. But Congress is fine; despite our
spending – has lost 402 conventions and conferences economic tsunami, the 535 members awarded
from October 2008 to mid-March. themselves a raise, and offered their staffers millions in
A recent Atlantic City Press cover story profiled bonuses. No performance review required there…
several local small business owners impacted by Where do I sign up?
casino profitability. As suppliers of laundry services,
florists, drivers, piano tuners and even portable toilets Editor’s Note: On Income Tax Day, April 15, several
for construction sites, they represent anonymous hundred venues in all 50 states across America hosted
businesspeople servicing gaming venues. The public “tea party” rallies. Millions protested what they
thousands they employ keep casinos chugging along. labeled the tax and spending abuses in Washington. Most
Facing severe revenue declines, these vendors hope mainstream media outlets downplayed them, but huge
for a prosperous summer. Multiply that scenario by crowds, like the 12,000-plus who braved the cold in New
the millions of small American businesses in almost York City or the 20,000 at the Georgia capital in Atlanta,
every gaming jurisdiction. reflect a clear dissatisfaction among US voters.
12 MAY 2009
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